A busy week for Outer Banks visitors

By on November 25, 2020

Outer Banks roads are again filled with out-of-state license plates, there are lines at the grocery stores and rental homes from Hatteras to Corolla are again filled with visitors.

Despite the challenges of traveling during this surge in the COVID-19 pandemic, property managers say Thanksgiving week 2020 may be the best one for visitors that they have seen. They do point out that while this is a time when many homeowners here gather with their families, others are making their homes available for renters.

“There are owners that this is sacrosanct, their Thanksgiving week. So we do have a number of owners here,” Tim Cafferty, President of Outer Banks Blue said. But he also notes that more owners than usual have chosen to leave their homes available this year. “We have more of them [rentals] available this year than in the past and we have been able to fill them all,” he said.

Monica Thibodeau, Managing Partner of Carolina Designs has seen the same trends. “We had a huge visitor influx this weekend [for weekly rentals],” she said. “Some homeowners do block the week, but we are definitely packed. We’ve got a lot of people down here.”

Thanksgiving Week has traditionally been strong for home rentals on the Outer Banks, with many families planning yearly annual visits and family gatherings for the week. The strong occupancy numbers enjoyed at Thanksgiving, however, do not appear to include hotels.

Maleta Slaughter, General Manager of the Hatteras Island Inn, doesn’t see Thanksgiving as a particularly strong time of the year. “Thanksgiving Day isn’t looking too good for us,” she said. “But the weekend, we’re getting some reservations in. The weather’s supposed to be good. It’ll probably be significant. We’ll end up getting last minute walk-ins.”

Slaughter’s remark about weather driving visitors to local hotels and motels is in line with offseason trends in visitation indicating that weather is a strong factor when people decide whether they are going to spend a weekend by the sea. The forecasts predict sunny if cool weather for Saturday and Sunday.

“I believe it’ll be better than last year,” she said.

The Outer Banks restaurant industry has been particularly hard hit by COVID-19 protocols. Revenues at Dare County restaurants, as reported but the Visitors Bureau, are down almost 22% for the year through September, according to the most recent reporting.

Wes Stepp, owner of Red Sky Cafe and NC Coast Grill & Bar in Duck, is one of the most experienced chefs on the Outer Banks. He points out that chefs have to think differently about what they’re doing this year.

“You’re not doing the same [seating] capacity because we’re at half capacity, and people are very conscientious about social distancing and the COVID protocols,” he said. “If you’re used to an Owens or Kelly’s back in the day, that business model is going to be impacted because you’re just not going to be able to seat the same amount of people.”

What he points out, though, is that opportunities are still there for restauranteurs.  “It’s going to be busy this year,” he said. “For the in-house [service], we’re only doing reservations that have been properly managed.”

Where Stepp sees the real potential is having a prepared meal ready for families who wish to eat at home.

“What we’ve done is we’ve created the gobbler to go. We really focused on Thanksgiving together,” he explained. “So, although we’re not going to be able to do the exact same thing that we did in the past, I still think we’re going to hit some great numbers because of the to-go service.”


  • Steven

    Really need to issue an evacuation for non residents.

    Wednesday, Nov 25 @ 2:31 pm
  • Louise

    I didn’t think they ever left.

    Wednesday, Nov 25 @ 2:53 pm
  • Ugh

    CDC says stay home, obx says hey come on down and celebrate on the beach! Fill our rentals and pack our stores! Money over resident safety, as always. Is anyone surprised that everything is packed?

    Wednesday, Nov 25 @ 6:41 pm
  • Steven

    Thats ridiculous just like it was before.

    Wednesday, Nov 25 @ 7:12 pm
  • Chris

    Why are we so busy if everybody was supposed to stay at home????? WHAT EVER!!!!! BOW DOWN TO THE ALMIGHTY DOLLAR$$$$$$$$$$$$$ THIS SH T IS A JOKE

    Wednesday, Nov 25 @ 8:31 pm
  • Linda

    Hey, you are a tourist town aren’t you? You have a beautiful area that attracts them there. Just look at all the mega mansions. What have locals done to do otherwise? Do you want your local businesses to falter? It is no different wherever you go with people not wearing masks, not social distancing and downright rude. Personally, I have chosen to stay home and have been since Spring of this year. I go out once a week to pick up essentials and go very early in the morning. Curbside grocery pickup is great! I have watched a lot of good movies and documentaries.

    The CDC has flip flopped so much on this unpredictable virus that no one knows what to believe anymore. However, it does not prevent me from protecting myself. And, by the way, I would not want anyone to be the recipient of this virus. It has been very difficult for everyone especially families with children and online learning. Visitors to my area have trampled over our state parks and crowded the parking areas and overlooks. People that live near the ocean go to the mountains and cities. People that live in the mountains and cities go to the ocean. It’s the same everywhere you go. It’s not the 1950’s anymore no matter how much I long for those times. Protect yourself and stop griping!

    Thursday, Nov 26 @ 6:14 am
  • Sandflea

    Great to see the out of state license plates at the groceries loading up on the paper products, etc. We don’t want the I-Me-My folks to throw another temper tantrum like last spring. Entitled people are as entitled people do.

    Thursday, Nov 26 @ 7:49 am
  • Michael Myers

    Time to seal the bridges again. It’s the off season anyhow. No tourists or NRPOs staying long term should be allowed now through the Spring till we see what’s happening with the virus. Cancel all future reservations and seal it to deliveries and essential l9cal travel only. Let’s see 0 cases while the bridges were sealed from tourists and NRPOs. Now its up exponentially. Money over deaths and sickness is absolutely REDICULOUS.
    Call the outer banks tourism board and dare co. Express concerns!!
    This is sick..literally and figuratively.

    Friday, Nov 27 @ 5:53 am
  • Linda

    I was not aware that the Outer Banks Voice censored commentaries posted here. I do not feel my comments were insulting or demeaning to residents but only to look at alternatives in order to deal with the pandemic. My family has regularly visited the Outer Banks for over 25 years and sometimes three times in a single year and did not realize there was so much disdain aimed at visitors. We have always brought our own supplies but do purchase the great seafood and fresh foods your vendors have offered. We have friends that were residents there but chose to relocate to Florida. So, why was it not posted?

    Friday, Nov 27 @ 8:02 am
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    Linda, your comment was approved.

    Saturday, Nov 28 @ 9:33 am
  • Dethrol

    Trampling on the rights of property owners and taxpayers didn’t go so well earlier this year, if I recall correctly. Everyone who wants to seal off the bridges also supports prohibiting anyone from leaving the beach and returning until after they quarantine for 14 days too, right? Closed means closed. No going to work off the island and coming home every night. No entry, PERIOD, that’s what is being suggested (over and over again). Get over yourselves and make sure you are the first in line for that vaccine now, you hear.

    Friday, Nov 27 @ 12:29 pm
  • Hunter

    Michael Myers—-let’s make sure bridges are sealed both ways. Nobody entering, NOBODY (including year round residents) leaves. Only way to ensure no Covid is brought in.No exceptions.BTW—-recent court decision regarding NRPO not on your side.

    Friday, Nov 27 @ 12:51 pm
  • Chris Smith

    Ok miss Linda. I have a pre existing condition and I go to work every day. No problem. I wear a mask and keep my distance, and wash my hands. Its the jackasses that come here to these mega mansions 35 cars in the driveway. None of them have a mask on and don’t social distance and they don’t care. If you had the common sense god gave a donkey.you wouldn’t go on vacation until you’ve gotten the vaccine. Its called COMMON SENSE wait until things calm down.

    Friday, Nov 27 @ 6:00 pm
  • Steve Werkheiser

    I am a NRPO. If it weren’t for that damn Constitution and Bill of Rights I would have agreed to close the bridges and stop the ferries, but we have to live with the freedoms our forefathers gave us. I wear a mask, social distance and wash as the CDC asks, but that just doesn’t seem to work well with some meatheads (locals and visitors). I was very surprised that 99% of people I saw at Publix, Lowes, Walmart and Home Depot were wearing masks. You can take all the precautions recommended, but even the most cautious (health care workers) still seem to make a mistake and acquire the disease. The many visitors that came down for Thanksgiving are going be super-spreaders, so we’ll see what happens in 2 weeks. Let’s hope the vaccine comes out soon and things get back to normal. I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! See yea next year.

    Saturday, Nov 28 @ 10:07 am
  • hightider

    I have to laugh at all the agita over Thanksgiving – across the US. Everyone is wailing that their rights are being trampled on. I bet that 90% of these moaners were complaining last year how much they hated being forced to socialize with relatives they didn’t like very much and listen to all the arguing over family and politics. 2020 and we are a nation of selfish whiners. During WW2, people didn’t have to be forced by law to do what was best for the nation. They just sucked it up, sacrificed, and did what was socially responsible. Now people are moaning about the hardship of not being able to get drunk at a bar, eat out, or take a vacation. These are all luxuries, not necessities. Super powers around the world see what a nation of weak crybabies we have become and it may not be too long before covid is no longer our biggest problem. And just a heads up to tourists – no, we really don’t like you and wish you would take your money and go somewhere, anywhere, else. If you are a small business owner dependent on tourism, you took a calculated risk and lost.

    Saturday, Nov 28 @ 4:06 pm
  • Linda

    To Chris: Yes, I understand as my husband works also. He’s considered an essential employee and we do the right thing. No donkeys here. We choose to come to the Outer Banks only 2-3 of us at a time renting only a small home offered by a NRPO. Our last visit was October 2019 which most likely was our last. It would not matter to some residents how many locals or visitors they offend. It’s in their blood to be disagreeable (not you). By the way, what’s the deal with toilet paper? Plenty of it here. One would think that living in an area prone to hurricanes, tropical storms and flooding would be an indication to the locals to get on the stick and be better prepared for the next disaster or heaven forbid the next unforeseen circumstance. Hubby says nearly everywhere he goes in VA (which is rare that I go out) every store has a mask-up policy. Is that being done there? I agree with you on the mega mansions as they are an eyesore, but yet, I am an older person and don’t require much space to be happy. Will they ever get a handle on that type of growth? Good health to you Chris and all Outer Banks locals. Hope the superspreaders pass on through VA on their way back up North! Remind all those with PA license plates that they must get a COVID test 3 days before entering PA.

    And, Sandflea, chill out, stock up and roll up your sleeve when the vaccine army comes to town!

    Saturday, Nov 28 @ 4:54 pm
  • Surf dog

    To all the real estate companies that are boasting about record rentals – I would like to see record donations to local charities by these people ! I personally donated all my stimulus money to the various food pantries. Go ahead, it should make you feel better.

    Monday, Nov 30 @ 2:53 pm
  • Joe public

    Does everyone forget that the local grocery retailers did not stock up on any supply’s until he bridge’s opened? Those retailers did not appear to have the best interest of the full time residents. Enforce the local requirements to wear a mask in public or when entering a retail establishment . Remind your kids to practice wearIng their masks when hanging around the skate park. The bridges opened when businesses needed the revenue, plain and simple. Take up the tourism issues with the locally elected officials. The restaurant owners and workers are not complaining and neither were the charter boats. Heck I am sure the drive thru beer retailer was not complaining with the surge in sales. Don’t forget that nrpo’s cannot be denied access in these trying times. That was an easy win.

    Wednesday, Dec 2 @ 8:46 pm